At TC50: Crowd Sourcing the Neighborhood Watch

I’m at the TechCrunch50 show where Google and Microsoft yesterday announced new visual interfaces for news and image search, respectively. Today, I’m on the hunt for interesting mobile & local companies.

One that just demoed, City Sourced, falls into this bucket, giving users a chance to report local crime and vandalism. The way this works is through an iPhone app that lets users take pictures of things like graffiti or old couches on the street. Using the phone’s GPS and compass reading, the app tags that content, wraps it up and sends it to City Hall.

On the other end, the company works with municipalities to enable their back end systems to receive and process all of these acts of citizen reporting. This includes lots of data and mapping mashups that allow city officials to plan law enforcement patrolling and clean-up efforts.

“The goal is for City Hall to be able to notify law enforcement to increase patrols in the area,” said CEO Jason Kiesel. “It gives them opportunity to predict and prevent with better law enforcement decisions.”

A quick demo showed how incidents of vandalism jumped from May to June in San Jose around many school districts — presumably having to do with summer break. San Jose is the company’s first customer and it is reportedly in discussions with a few of the top 10 populated cities in the U.S..

The app’s success will come down to the ability to form these deals but also the ability to market the app to users. The data sets will obviously only be as good as the amount of people that are generating them. But its novelty could cause it to rise above the noise in the mobile app world, and you can picture it being featured on Apple’s “there’s an app for that” TV ads.

Next up, the company will develop a Palm Pre app, with Android likely to follow. It will also integrate more and more public data sources to make crime records searchable in the ways that Everyblock, TownMe and others have begun to do. Social features could be on the way too, to let users do digg-style “voting up” local issues that deserve the most attention.

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